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Musician Resource Reviews (by Kim Gentes)

Kim reviews musician training or resources. Musician resources may be DVD training, songbooks or even enhanced CDs with video or music resources.  Basically, the term is for anything that is not a regular listening CD, but has to do with helping musicians and/or congregations learn the music and play it for a local church worship service.

Leading Worship: A DVD Training Experience - Dan Wilt (2003)

Looking at tools for helping us move forward in both understanding and application in a given area, one of the best new tools available is video. Vineyard Music Canada has tapped into this media in digital format with the Leading Worship DVD. Beginning with the host, Dan Wilt, you are walked through what feels like a Canadian documentary/instruction program on the topic of worship leading. Moving from one short interview to another, this 60-Minutes-esque (or shall I say W5-ish) DVD is very well paced and covers excellent breadth of topic. No less than 13 sections cover topics like Worship Leader Role, Choosing Songs, Incorporating Hymns, Your Musical Role, the Learning Process and many others.

What is really delightful about this entire DVD is the different perspectives and input given by the 7 people speaking on the various topics. Each topic is generally treated to 2 or 3 vignettes in which individual worship leaders discuss their perspective on that particular subject. What results is a very good rendering of the overarching principles that drive much of the worship leading in the Vineyard community and the modern worship styled churches around the world.

Dan Wilt does an excellent job as host, showing his own gift in teaching by weaving scripture and commentary throughout the entire DVD, enabling it to have flow and focus as you pass from one topic to another. Then, as you listen to the insights of people like Brian Doerksen and Tim Hughes you begin to get a touch of the passion that God has placed in the hearts of these leaders. From Brenton Brown you hear a young voice of both principle and deep Biblical conviction. Andy Park and Kathryn Scott chime in to render a freshness and stark honesty that keeps the conversations real and applicable to where each of us actually lives.

There are plenty of gems in this DVD, and I am sure that each person will get a number of great things out of it. I had several favorite points in watching this presentation, but a few I want to mention. Brian Doerksen gives an excellent mini-capsule of what the role of a worship leader is- engaging with the local church to answer the psalmist question "when can I go meet with God". Brenton Brown has a very well spoken summation of the worship set, and how a leader can think about it, which can really help maintain a proper focus. I just love the practical reality that Andy Park brings up in choosing songs. But again, what really tie the interviews together are the insightful points made by Dan Wilt. It is clear that you are getting a well-thought presentation by Dan, then given specific personal perspective from each worship leader being interviewed.

The production, videography, editing and pacing of the DVD is top-notch. This was done on a professional scale, not just thrown together, and that really helps make the DVD that much more enjoyable to watch. There is one minor thing that I felt may have been missing, especially noting the Vineyard model of "show and tell" that is present in almost all their other teachings. Specifically, there are no actual live examples on this DVD of either worship leading, or preparation for it. Part of the strength of the Vineyard style and models has been that they can be both explained and expressed in a modeling context that lets people "catch it" as well as understand it. Still, even with the more straight-ahead teaching format here, the content and perspectives are so strong that anyone in worship leadership will benefit from getting this wonderful resource.

In many ways, I think this DVD captures what people would really hope to get in a conference setting for worship leaders-- excellent and succinct teaching from a variety of worship leaders on the "how and what" about their craft. For both the novice worship leader and the seasoned psalmist, the level of excellence and insight in this DVD will be useful to all.

Product Link: Leading Worship - A DVD Training Experience

Review by Kim Gentes

Modern Worship: Music Styles - Paul Baloche (2003)

The era of the DVD has arrived. This has become more evident by the number of various products found in DVD format. And the area of worship music has actually been a recent strong adopter of the digital video format. From iWORSHIP brand products by Integrity, to great live worship videos from Hillsong Music to artist worship concerts with Michael W. Smith and Third Day, praise and worship has gone digital with the major releases. Now worship leader/songwriter Paul Baloche has blazed the trail by presenting the first edition in a series of instructional DVDs for worship leaders and worship teams. This first DVD is entitled "Worship Styles".

While the DVD is an independently produced effort by Paul Baloche, the videography on this DVD is top notch. A nicely set 6-camera presentation, with excellent audio, transitions, effects and edits, this DVD is far above normal indie video efforts. Introducing the main content is a brief talk with Paul, as he strolls down the street, coffee cup in hand. And this really sets the mood for the presentation of this DVD- you are invited into a relaxed, but intentional session with Paul and "the band" bringing you fruther along on your trek as worship team.

The main content of "Worship Styles" is a worship team teaching tool that walks through a single song in no less than 6 different stylings: traditional, celtic, reggae, rock, country and R&B. A jazz rendering is also added to the end of the DVD, but not discussed at length. The DVD works this way: first, the song is played through once in the style; then Paul Baloche discusses the main concepts of the style. Finally, each instrumentalist breaks down the individual parts of the song in that style, describing and playing the part for all to see and play along with. The instruments covered are bass guitar, drums, keyboards, electric guitar and acoustic guitar. Each instrumentalist is an extensively accomplished musician, who talks the language and plays the grooves with precision and meaning.

It would be unrealistic to try to match the level of musicians presented in this DVD with your local worship team, but fortunately, that is not the goal of this instruction. Instead, the musicians play precise stylings that most mid-level players can copy and practice to make their own. The beauty of this DVD is that Paul taps in on something all of us have known for a long time- don't tell us how to play something, show us. Nearly all of the garage band musicians out there learned (at least in part) by watching someone else play. The weakness of some traditional training is the "book and classroom" methods that don't incorporate extensive amounts of "show-and-tell". Paul brings us some digital music mentors in this video, letting us sit in on sessions on how to construct (one instrument at a time) a song into the style of your choice.

Let's be clear, you won't learn basic music theory or simple "how to play your instrument" lessons on this DVD. But you will take the essential rudiments that each instrument needs to compose a consistent, polished sound for a given style. For example, drummer Carl Albrecht gives precise example and instruction on how to lay down the two variations of country beats needed in two parts of a country style rendition of "All Hail The Power of Jesus Name". After that, bassist Don Harris explains and lays down the bass parts. And so on, with the keyboards, electric guitar and the rhythm acoustic guitar. Each style is walked through in this same fashion, giving the video consistency and content. Throughout the transition from style to style, Paul also talks candidly about his struggles as a worship leader in a local church to use various styles. The talk is light, but meaningful, and a refreshing bridge across the "meat" of the musical examples laid out in this presentation. Paul and his coffee penchant return as the DVD is concluded by a lengthy black and white interview with Southern California pastor Bob Branch. In that discussion, Paul and Bob settle the melee for worship leaders and pastors on how they can come together and work as a team for the good of their local churches.

If you are wanting to sample some of the DVD, we have created a short online preview for you of the Worship Styles DVD Preview [ Windows Media | Realplayer ] . Click on the format you prefer to see the preview.

I liked this DVD so much, I watched it over and over to see if I had missed any obvious flaws or gaps in the content or production- to make sure my lauds wouldn't be misplaced. I could find any flaws. What will be evident to anyone leading a contemporary worship team (drums, bass, piano, guitars) is the excellent encouragement this will bring to you and your band. Not only do you learn the proper rudiments for the style, but (as a leader) the language for communicating that to your musicians. Giving an Editor's Choice to "Worship Styles" DVD is a no-brainer, as this product blazes the trail to an era of digital training resources which many will, no doubt, follow. And as they do, they would do well to follow in Paul's example by using not only top quality people, but excellent production in the project. Congrats on a great resource, Paul!

Product Link:  Music Styles With Paul Baloche Modern Worship Series (DVD)

Review by Kim Gentes

Survivor Songbook (2002)

Friend, this is Kim Gentes. As a worship leader, I occasionally like to write about resources that I know are specifically helpful and made for worship leaders and musicians. In that category, we find there are a plethora of collection songbooks - from "best of" to those that try to include hundreds of songs. But most of the time, either the collection is too sparse (top 20 doesn't make sense a very complete worship resource, in my mind) or it is so expansive that the cost is outrageous. Recently I found a great new resource that includes a very extensive list of songs, at an exceptional price. The resource is this product you found here called "Survivor Songbook".

What is great about this songbook is not just its extensive enough to cover most of the popular modern worship songs- but it also includes an amazing set of files on the included CD-ROM. The companion CD disk (included in the songbook) has complete piano sheet music files and overhead masters for every one of the 200 songs in the songbook. The printed songbook itself has lyrics, chord charts and teaching articles. This means the songbook is of manageable size to actually use (wow! imagine that!). But that decent size doesn't mean you give up having access to every single piano sheet music score for the songs in the songbook. This is a marvelous thing, and allows you to print the score off for just the songs you need. Of course it also has the formatted lyric masters for the overhead and projection uses that most of us need. All the scores are in PDF format, so it is completely portable across computer systems, which is great! Check this out (above) for an overview, list of features, and song list of the songbook. I think this is the best songbook available anywhere! And while we normally give "Editor's Choice Awards" to CD projects, this song definitely deserves for what a great resource it is!

Product Link 

Many blessings,
Kim Gentes

God Of Wonders / Video Songbook CD-ROM (2002)

A couple weeks ago, I was rummaging through my music collection trying to find a chord chart for the song God of Wonders, the recently popular worship song that also enjoyed extensive radio play. The problem was, I didn't have a CD and songbook combination that was done in a congregational format that I could duplicate with my local church praise and worship team. I quickly remembered that the recently released Integrity Hosanna project with Paul Baloche had covered the song God of Wonders. I listened to the CD, but didn't have time to check out the music immediately. Then, about a week later I received a new product from Integrity called "God of Wonders Video Songbook". I read the cover and quickly discovered it was a CD-ROM, which I immediately threw in my computer's CD-ROM drive.

What I saw very encouraging! In about 5 minutes I had become hooked on this new tool. A day later, I brought the CD-ROM to my home and put it in my home PC. In 10 minutes I had learned the song I wanted to learn, using the age-old method of all successful students- watching and copying someone who could do it well. The genius of this resource isn't that it does something new, but that it does something old- play by example! You might be tempted to think this would be either too easy or too amateur-ish to be useful and effective. You would be wrong. First, let me describe how this resource works.

When you place the CD-ROM in your drive a window appears on your screen with a menu of songs selections. Clicking the first selection, Paul welcomes you to the video songbook and lets you know what to expect. For each song from the "God Of Wonders" album, two selections exist- a chord chart and an instructional guitar video. When you select the music note icon next to the song, the appropriate chord chart appears via the Adobe Acrobat program. Incidentally, all the software programs that are used to run the media on the video songbook are actually included on the CD-ROM for installation on to your computer (although that will likely not be necessary, since most computer will already have all these common print and video viewers installed).

In my case, I clicked on the chord chart for "God of Wonders". I printed the chart out and set it down next to me. Then I selected the video icon and immediately I had Paul Baloche in my home teaching me how to play a very cool (but accessible) version of God of Wonders on my guitar. In about 10 minutes I had listened and played along with Paul on three repetitions of the song. I learned the strumming pattern, chords, special finger placements, right & left hand accents and all that was necessary for playing this song in either my small group or for leading it from the acoustic on Sunday morning. As it happened for me, Sunday morning was the next morning. During the pre-service practice I taught the song to the band using what I had learned on the video songbook. Our first song in congregational worship that morning was God of Wonders. As we got to the end of the musical portion of our service, I went back and repeated the song as our last song that morning! It was very encouraging- people were engaging in praise to the Lord and the music of the song was played well and really supported the saints as they worshiped!

Over the days that followed, I went back and walked through each of the songs on the video songbook and found the same helpful instruction and ease to use arrangements on most songs. One of the songs (Jesus You Are), is even presented in two keys to allow you to follow and learn in keys best suited for your group. I was stoked!

The bottom line for me is this- using a musical/worship resource is only as good as its application in the local church life. If I can't actually use it in some form with my local congregation, I have a hard time seeing its value. This video songbook resource answers those concerns and blesses the Body of Christ by giving us all a great tool for learning some wonderful songs. I would not hesitate to recommend this resource to any guitar player or worship/praise leader that uses guitar.

My hope is that this new format of resourcing becomes a standard for all projects that present songs intended for use in the local church. If you are a worship leader, get a hold of this new resource- you'll be glad you did! To the worship publishing companies out there-- more, more, more! Instead of doing another rehash collection of souped up old favorite worship songs, we need this type of innovative and resourceful tool from you! To Paul Baloche and all the folks who are working to towards getting actually useable resources out to the local church and their worship ministry staffs- thank you and keep going! To all the high (and low) profile worship leaders out there- please consider what Paul has done here and how it offers such value to the Body of Christ and be spurred on to see what God could uniquely have you do to give to His body through such resourcing.

This resource is simply a great tool for the church; there really isn't any other way to say it. It is for this reason that the God of Wonders Video Songbook is receiving our "Editor's Choice Award". I think it will be a touchtone product that will hopefully lead to a new frontier of resourcing the local church in worship.

Blessings in the Lamb!

Product Link

Kim Gentes

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